Be That One

bb6I usually try to catch some news while I’m preparing dinner and realized after some time that I was saying the same thing every night: “WHAT is goin’ on?” At first I thought it was funny until it occurred to me that we spend much of our time questioning and  complaining about what is wrong in our lives and in this world … and we fail to get up and actually do something about it.

Whether it’s a lack of conviction, feelings of inadequacy or fear of failure … we are also aware that doing the right thing won’t necessarily make you “Christian or Citizen of the Year” – and definitely don’t win you any popularity contests.

So, am I – are you – willing to be that one (even if the only one) to stand for what is right in the face of fierce opposition and sometimes, pure evil (if there is such a thing)?

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

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All Said and Done

bb4This song was born out of deep feelings of inferiority: some of them self-induced but others in response to the kind of people I have since come to realize are dealing with their own inadequacies.  I found myself in an environment where degrees, status and power were everything. Thing is, I was the only person in the place who had none none of the above. I remember sitting in a meeting one day after being overlooked, ignored, insulted and dismissed thinking, “Wow! I am in a room full of people who know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING (pardon my sarcasm) – even the areas I thought were my specialties! Clearly I must have been hired to be the village idiot!”

I struggled daily with assaults on my intelligence and self-respect until one day I sat at my desk and cried out to God. That’s when he gently reminded me that I had followed him to that very place, just as I had to every other work place and vocation before – and nothing had escaped his notice.

Later on, after he dismantled my pride and set it discreetly out of the way, he brought me to the realization that I was only there for a time and a purpose for as long as he desired and all I really needed to concern myself with was to follow him.  I do. I will. Instant peace – all is well.

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Silent Before You

bb1True story. I try to be good when people are praying – close my eyes and fold my hands like I learned in Sunday School, but sometimes I really wonder what God is thinking when we give him these multiple choice requests (Lord, you could do this, this or that); or when we let him know up front what his limits are (Lord, if you would just do that…); or my personal favorite – when we take on an advisory role with the omniscient God of the universe.

 

In my mind I have this picture of him stroking his beard thoughtfully and saying, “Hmmm – I did not know that” at someone’s stroke of genius … Or “thanks for telling me that – I had no idea,” when another well-meaning petitioner has pointed out the best approach to remedy a sticky situation, or the inner workings of someone else’s motives.

When do we ever stop and listen to what He has to say? Do we really enjoy the sound of our own voices that much or are we just afraid of what He might be trying to tell us?  Some of my most earnest – and effective – times of prayer have been those times when I was broken, at a complete loss for words and desperate. Desperate to hear his voice.

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Sometimes In The Dark

bb9One morning I was reading from a favorite devotional book (Springs in The Valley by Mrs. Charles Cowman), which led me to Exodus 14 – and the account of the Red Sea crossing. What fascinated me was the panic that ensued even after the Israelites had seen God’s power demonstrated time and time again. He had led them with a cloud by day and a fire by night. They complained to Moses and he complained to God, who pretty much told him, “why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get up and get going!”  Mrs. Cowman included this little gem from Matthew Henry:  “The God of Israel, the Savior, is sometimes a God that hides Himself, but never a God that absents Himself; sometimes in the dark, but never at a distance.”

I love that for I’ve had moments in my life when I felt completely alone – despairing of my circumstances and even of the belief that God loved me.  But in my darkest hour, whenever I cried out to him, he always found a way to reach out and comfort me, whisper my name, reassure me of his faithful presence … pick me up, dust me off, and send me on my way again!

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Concert for One

bb2I was not expecting anyone to be there. I had just stopped by my friend’s apartment to wait for her sister-in-law so we could practice a duet for church the following Sunday.  Beckie was not home and didn’t think Sam would be there, either. But he was. And I was really uncomfortable. I walked in the apartment, startled to find him home and a little afraid because you never knew with Sam in those days, what kind of mood he was going to be in.

I quickly set the guitar down in the corner and tried to make conversation while I waited for his sister, Dawn to arrive. They came from a wonderful Christian family. Their Dad had passed away when they were children, but their mother had raised them all to love and serve God. Sam was a tough one, though. I never knew what brought him to that place but he was far from the faith and the God his mother loved and served. He didn’t think much of church people, either, and didn’t mind telling you why. Problem is, there was a whole lot of truth in what he said.

After a few minutes of attempted conversation interspersed with awkward silences, I heard him say in his gruff southern drawl, “well, you gonna play that thing or not?” I was opting for ‘not’ but the more I declined, the more he insisted I sing something for him. You didn’t argue with Sam. I silently cried out to God for help and with a quivering voice began to sing one of my favorite B.J. Thomas tunes (written by Archie P. Jordan and Claire D. Cloninger):

You gave me time when no one gave me time of day;
You looked deep inside while the rest of the world looked away;
You smiled at me when there were just frowns everywhere;
You gave me love when nobody gave me a prayer.

“Well, don’t stop now,” he said, so I began another one, “He’s the hand on my shoulder when I need to know someone cares; He’s the hand on my shoulder, assuring me that He’s always there …” (another one written by Archie P. Jordan).  I kept singing but was quite relieved when his sister arrived several songs later and I considered myself rescued. Although Sam never said a word, I could tell his heart was touched.  And while I didn’t say anything, either, I was afraid he could hear my heart pounding on my way out the door!

Several months later, upon hearing that my husband had accepted a job offer in New York, Sam told me I had better not leave without making a tape for him, which I did, and it never occurred to me to offer up my usual excuses.  It was Sam, after all. Years passed. Family and friends prayed but it seemed as though Sam was too far gone to ever be reached and perhaps he was.  That is, until God intervened in a big way.

Imagine my surprise one evening as I picked up the phone to hear Beckie and Sam on the line, overjoyed at what God had done in their lives. Sam had been battling leukemia and during his time in the hospital for a bone marrow transplant, he was miraculously saved – their marriage restored. He was a new man!  I rejoiced as he told me the story of how God had changed his life. I cried when he reminded me of that old tape of mine that he played until he wore it out.

Sam is in Heaven now but I often reflect on that little concert for one, as well as others I have been privileged to experience in my life: singing to my Dad via cassette tape as he recovered from a heart attack, and for my big brother serving in the military; ministering in the universal language of music to our Italian neighbor in Sicily who always seemed to appear on the balcony whenever I was practicing; serenading my children from the living room at night after they’d gone to bed; strumming my guitar and whispering some well-loved hymns for my Mom in her final days as she prepared to meet her Savior. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, not even “success” in the music business as some people might define it.

I may never be famous. I’m okay with that. It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever sing to huge crowds with people lined up to meet me. I don’t know that I’ll ever hear any of my songs on the radio, and I may never have enough time in this life to share all the music God has planted in my soul. But I will never forget, nor will I ever regret being available to God for those special events He booked in advance for this sold-out singer at His concerts for one.

Blessings,
Becki

God’s Not-So-Quick-and-Easy Five Step Plan (Part Two)

bb31) Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
2) Keep the vows you’ve made to the Most High,
3) Call on Him when you’re in trouble,
4) He will rescue you, and
5) You will give Him glory. (Psa. 50:14-15)

It’s a great plan! Not one of the latest self-help crazes, but the one set in motion by a thankful heart and willing spirit, the plan God designed and He personally administers, the one where He helps you – not because you helped yourself, but because you cried out to Him when you could not help yourself, and then, by His gracious intervention, you are able to rise and shine, and give Him the glory.  It’s not contrived or self-serving. It is completely the Lord’s doing. And it pretty much sums up my spiritual and musical journeys, for they are one and the same.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in preparation for ministry when a particular obstacle or extreme personal difficulty loomed in front of me the week or evening (sometimes moments) before I was to sing. Some things were just bizarre. The type of bad news that makes your heart pound, tying a knot in your stomach and stopping you dead in your tracks, the impossible situation that makes you feel like you are way out of your league or worse yet – you misunderstood His calling and don’t belong there at all.  What are you supposed to do when that happens?

You can deny the impact it has on you. You can run and hide.  You can lash out in frustration to anyone who’ll listen. You can blame it on the devil or get mad at God.  You can make excuses or you can quit altogether. But frankly, none of these are very effective, and all are inappropriate responses that circumvent the first step in this plan, “Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God.” I ought to know; I’m the poster child for trying all the wrong things first!

You can over-compensate by trying to give more, do more, be more. But what we so often forget is that He already owns everything and is never in need of anything – much less, anything we have to offer. But He does ask for our sacrifice of praise. And while He takes no pleasure in superficial vows that we may have been pressured or guilted into making, He does expect us to keep the promises we have made to Him.

Over the years, I’ve come to expect the unexpected, often unwelcome, last minute intrusions into my blissful and properly controlled environment, one I thought was necessary to prepare myself for times of ministry (did you catch that – ‘prepare myself?’).  I had to let go of the expectation that God should provide me with a trouble-free bubble in which to float about until it’s time to carry out the work He has called me to do. I mean, really! There is no such thing as a Christian diva – a spiritual prima donna. I have found that the blessing most often arrives in the arms of the unexpected. It can be cleverly disguised as a difficult person, a disappointing relationship, a desperate need or challenging situation. God’s provision is patiently waiting in the wings while the unexpected carries out its role in my life and His power shines brightest on the dark stage of my needy heart.

I’d like to tell you all about my Mom’s debilitating illness that began just before I left for Nashville last November, as well as her home-going in March, because they were two of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to deal with. I could point out how the timing seemed all wrong and a little cruel at first, but I think I’ll reserve that story and the song it sang for the next album.  For you see, in spite of all the difficulties, I have the wonderful gift of God’s presence and peace.  He has filled my heart to overflowing, enabling me to offer up the beautiful sacrifice of praise. He has given me the grace and strength I needed to fulfill my vows to Him, and He has come to my rescue time and time again.  I pray this will be your reality, too, and that these simple songs will bring comfort and encouragement to you wherever you are.

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. Psalm 57:2

Blessings on your journey!
Becki

God’s Not-So-Quick-and-Easy Five Step Plan (Part One)

bb6Everybody’s looking for a quick fix these days and self-help books abound: three, four and five easy steps to success in your favorite area of deficiency. The more ‘serious’ approaches may favor seven to twelve steps.  So I chuckled as I was reading Psalm 50 one day and came across a little five step plan tucked away in verses 14-15:

1) Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God;
2) Keep the vows you’ve made to the Most High; then
3) Call on Him when you’re in trouble; and
4) He will rescue you; and
5) You will give Him glory (or honor Him, in one translation).

Huh! We get so caught up in asking God to show us the glory and make our paths smooth, that we fail to recognize or count on His faithfulness. I think we have it all backwards and our definition of success is skewed. If we’re honest, our list might read more like this:

1) Bless me so I can have things to be thankful for;
2) Accept whatever I decide to do for You and be glorified in it;
3) Let me live trouble-free so others will see how good you are;
4) I promise to pity and pray for all the other poor souls who struggle; and
5) If and when You do all of the above, I may start keeping my vows to You (if it’s not too much trouble).

After several faith-building formative years, signs of life began to sprout from the dormant seeds of unfulfilled desires and unanswered prayers. I had just returned from my first trip to Nashville and had recently signed a contract with Creative Soul. Driving home from work one night, rejoicing over how quickly things had changed, I thanked the Lord for the apparent ease with which they developed. But from the moment the thank you left my lips I had a sinking feeling that prompted me to ask out loud, “it’s about to get more difficult, isn’t it?” There was no audible response but I immediately sensed the Lord’s presence and I could almost see Him nodding His head affirmatively, His reassuring hand on my shoulder.

The very next morning, my husband was unable to get out of bed. His degenerative disk disease had progressed to the point the doctor had warned us about and we knew that he was going to require extensive surgery. The situation was grim and a variety of worst case scenarios erupted in my mind. It was then I remembered the conversation in my car the night before. And I wasn’t afraid, because I knew God was going to take care of my husband and me, and everything He intended for us to do. In fact, He had the entire situation under control, start to finish. Several weeks later, after a successful surgery and sufficient time to recover, my husband was finally able to make the trip to Nashville with me for vocal week.

It started there, this quietness in my soul that was undisturbed by trouble and unaffected by achievement.  The Holy Spirit began to develop in me a pattern of gratitude: thanking God for every gift, every trial, every delay, every person who had touched my life and everything else that had worked together for my good to bring me to this place. I was determined to fulfill my vow to write and sing for Him. I found out why the Psalmist didn’t say “if” you’re in trouble but “when” you’re in trouble, for there was plenty of that along the way but when it arrived, I cried out to Him and He rescued me every single time. He just wanted my sacrifice of praise that created a willingness to demonstrate my faith in Him by taking one more step in the right direction, and then another, and another one after that. And in all of this, I give Him the glory. I give Him all the glory!

Blessings,
Becki

The Songs of My Life

bb2As a college student I was asked what I hoped to do with my music education. Not knowing any better, I said, “I just want to write songs!” Unfortunately, the response given to me in my youthful zeal was all I needed to make my exit and pursue another path. I didn’t understand it. I had been so sure that this was something God wanted me to do. I believed He had gifted me in that way and I had made the commitment, only to find out it was impossible for someone like me to attain (at least, that’s what I came away with).

But God had another plan. He led me down a different path, away from the places and people I depended on, away from what was comfortable and familiar, far beyond the reach of all my cherished expectations about what my life should look like, and into a deep and satisfying relationship with Him. After years of questioning His timing and plan, it finally dawned on me that He had been working all along and had graciously orchestrated everything – all of the stories that would write the songs of my life.

You can read some of these stories here on my new website, beckibice.com. You can hear my first album of original songs, now available for downloads or CD purchase. I’ll be sharing some thoughts from time to time, and I would love to hear from you, too, about how God is working in your life. I hope before long that we’ll have to add a webpage for some of the stories that are yet to be written – stories that take place because of the songs!

Let’s keep in touch and encourage one another!

Blessings,

Becki